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Health Unit: Lift more people out of poverty with a basic income guarantee

Income guarantee would replace other social assistance programs to help families in need
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The Sudbury and District Health Unit is part of a growing chorus of health units across the province that supports the concept of a guaranteed minimum income to give families living below the poverty line a greater ability to meet their basic needs. File photo.

The Sudbury and District Health Unit is part of a growing chorus of health units across the province that supports the concept of a guaranteed minimum income to give families living below the poverty line a greater ability to meet their basic needs.

“An income response, such as basic income guarantee, looks like a very promising strategy,” said Bridget King, a public health nutritionist with the health unit.

Proponents of a basic income guarantee say it would provide more financial support for families and individuals below the poverty line than current social assistance programs like Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

February's provincial budget promised a pilot project to test guaranteed basic income on a smaller scale. In the budget document, the Liberal government said “a basic income could build on the success of minimum wage policies and increases in child benefits by providing more consistent and predictable support.”

But Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa has not yet said which community, or communities, would serve as a test bed for a basic income guarantee.

The details of how a such a funding scheme would work, who would qualify and how much financial support recipients would be entitled to, have not yet been determined.

But around nine per cent of Canadians live below the poverty line.

In a report on nutritious food baskets last year, the Sudbury and District Health Unit determined a family of four relying on Ontario Works would need to live on $2,214 per month.

Subtracting average rent in Sudbury ($1,111) and the cost to buy healthy and nutritious food for the month ($874) that family would have $229 left to cover other expenses.

In October 2015, the Social Planning Council and the Sudbury Workers Education & Advocacy Centre released a report called, fittingly, "The Living Wage for a Family of Four in the City of Greater Sudbury."

The report concluded that for a family of four to meet their basic needs, both parents would need to make a minimum of $16.18 per hour to get by.




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